…but not everything is due to Karma!

It starts to get a bit scary when people attribute everything to karma, so it is sometimes timely to mention the Sivaka Sutta (SN 36.21).

Sivaka, a wanderer, asked the Buddha what he thought about some of the priests teaching a deterministic view of the world, where everything that one experiences is a consequence of past deeds.

The Buddha replies by giving some common sense examples where if your health is not good, or when the weather changes, or when we do not take good care of ourselves, or when accidents occur, we experience pain not directly due to intentional action by ourselves.

Commentaries give five processes by which phenomena occur, of which karma is only one of them:

(1) Utuniyama or weather processes.

(2) Bijaniyama or hereditary. Although some may interpret this as hereditary per se, with DNA and genetics and such, to me this is stretching it a litte. Anyway, it’s only the scriptural commentaries.

(3) Kammaniyama. Just karma, and enough about it already!

(4) Cittaniyama or mental processes. This differs from intention that underlies actions, and also mental actions. It refers to the sensation and awareness of objects, and leading to recognition and cognition, arising of feelings and emotions, etc. but these of course usually lead to decisions and intentions, eventually, karma. Refer to an earlier post that says from “contact” arises karma.

(5) Dhammaniyama or natural processes, i.e. laws of physics, etc.

So Buddhism is really not a deterministic religion, as though everything were fixed and decided for us already, and all we have to do is sit back and let nature run its course. Karma means intentions, which means decisions. Free will!


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